[lbo-talk] US Decline: Might as well...

Ismail Lagardien ilagardien at yahoo.com
Thu May 17 15:03:34 PDT 2007

I usually leave my schpiel (spelling) for the solitude of my reading, the library and classroom, and use this list to learn (from youse :-)

Wojtek makes the point about US imperial decline. There may be some truth in this, but for once, the decline of the hegemon/lender of last resort/call it what you will, may make little change, or cause no rupture. In fact, continuity may be what comes out of the contemporary, post-Cold War period. Of course, it is, (as Mao said about the French Revolution) too early to tell...

The points I want to make are, First: Under US leadership (like it or not) most of the institutions - in the broadest sense - of liberal capitalist organisation of the world economy were put in place. This is not to say that they were all created at the behest of the US. But, starting in the 19th century, with the International Telegraph Union in (I think) 1865 and culminating in the WTO in 1994, the US has pretty much provided the intellectual, political and power leadership that either established or sustains the main institutions and organisations; regional (NATO) and international (Bretton Woods, WTO etc). By power i simply refer, in this sense, to the fact that without the US organisations like Nato would not have survived - of course that has to be seen in the context of the post-war/cold war geo-strategic distribution/correlation of power.

Second. The institutions created under the tutelage of the US (free trade regime underpinned by GATT), organisations (Bretton Woods) - as much as it can be said taht they have assumed some measure of relative autonomy - they represent more than just administrative, managerial, functional organisations... they represent, if you will allow me my Critical Realist spin, mechanisms for the management of global capitalism. In other words, the world that the US set out to create after the Second World War, starting with Cordell Hull's world trade initiative, seems pretty much in place AND, what was the most powerful potentially countervailing forces, China/India decided to OPT INTO the system, rather than oppose it...

In short, the US might decline in terms of its powers of influence, coercion, manipulation etc... but why should it be concerned, the world is almost completely (liberal) capitalist, the EU will have difficulty changing it. Blair's relationship with Bush is not as much of an abbrtion as one my think; there have been very few instance during the post-war era, when the British actually told the US to STOP!... and when the US actually listened.

The Dutch, Danes, French and the Poles are way over to the right of where they were during the Cold War. Sure, that is not saying much; but the likes of Mitterand, or the old socialist leaders of the Labour Party in Britain have been supplanted.

If we can expect any counter-systemic threats, I would look towards (but not be very hopeful), Latin America. The two most powerful countries in Africa, South Africa and Nigeria are lost. Nigerians are terribly sycophantic of the US as is South Africa. The latter was poised in the mid-1990s, to join forces with Brazil, India and China to actually present a formal and formidable systemic threat, but SOUTH AFRICA chickened out (i have some personal insights into the latter).

anyway... if things change, and say the US declines, the liberal capitalist world created pretty much in its image, will remain... but then again, as Moa said about the French Revolution.

and that is the most i have EVER said in 15 years of discussion list/email groups etc.

Perhaps it is my wishful thinking, but this is yet another sign of the US imperial decline and the ascent of EU power.


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